Android Smartphone to be sent into Space
Published on: 8th Feb 2013
Note -- this news article is more than a year old.
A UK university has developed a satellite that is based around an Android smartphone and they plan to send it into orbit later this month.
The satellite, called STRaND-1 (the Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator), is a 30cm CubeSat weighing 4.3kg and at its heart is a Google Nexus One smartphone.
As the researchers note, smartphones incorporate several key features that are integral to a satellite -- such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors -- almost everything except the solar panels and propulsion.
STRaND-1 will also be the first UK CubeSat to be launched and has been developed by space engineers and researchers at Surrey with the majority of the design and developmental work being carried out in their spare time. The build and test phase of the project has been completed in just three months.
During the first phase of the mission, STRaND-1 will use a number of experimental 'Apps' to collect data whilst a new high-speed linux-based CubeSat computer developed by SSC takes care of the satellite. During phase two, the STRaND-1 team plan to switch the satellite's in-orbit operations to the smartphone, thereby testing the capabilities of a number of standard smartphone components for a space environment.
The satellite will be commissioned and operated from the Surrey Space Centre's ground station at the University of Surrey. The space mission has been jointly developed by the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).
Being the first smartphone satellite in orbit is just one of many 'firsts' that STRaND-1 is hoping to achieve. It will also fly innovative new technologies such as a 'WARP DRiVE' (Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) and electric Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs); both 'firsts' to fly on a nanosatellite. It is also flying a 3D printed part - believed to be the first to fly in space.
Dr Chris Bridges, SSC's lead engineer on the project, says: "A smartphone on a satellite like this has never been launched before but our tests have been pretty thorough, subjecting the phone to oven and freezer temperatures, to a vacuum and blasting it with radiation.
"It has a good chance of working as it should, but you can never make true design evolutions or foster innovation without taking a few risks: STRaND is cool because it allows us to do just that."